By Jill Arul
If you’ve ever teared up as the music swells to a crescendo during a particularly moving scene, then you know that a good score can tug at your emotions like no other. Who could forget the iconic Imperial March from Star Wars or even Kina Grannis’ soulful rendition of “Can’t Help Falling In Love” in Crazy Rich Asians?
While it may be hard to believe, such powerful tunes were made possible with the help of sophisticated technology and equipment. In the 21st century, the process of producing—and even appreciating—music has increasingly gone digital. Nowadays, modern-day musicians aren’t just talented—they’re technologically-savvy too.
Through the Infocomm Media Development Authority’s (IMDA) Singapore Digital (SG:D) Scholarship, budding musicians can not only nurture their passion at top schools, but also pick up the technical skills needed in this day and age. In this feature, present and past recipients of the SG:D Scholarship share to IMPact News how the scholarship has helped them face the music—literally.
From Singapore to the world
The beauty of a great film score is something that multi-awarded composer and 2020 SG:D scholar Mr Sulwyn Lok is all too familiar with. Mr Lok started his journey with the ruan, a traditional Chinese plucked string instrument, when he was 13 years old. After joining the Singapore Youth Chinese Orchestra at the age of 17, he received tutelage from noted musician Mr Seetoh Poh Lam.
“He taught me that every note is alive, and to shape your interpretation, emotions and story in the pieces we play,” recalled Mr Lok. This experience deepened his love for music, encouraging him to venture into composing, conducting and film scoring. Indeed, Mr Lok has since won several accolades for his work—such as Best Original Music for the film Bodhi at the 2019 National Youth Film Awards. Another film he had scored, ADAM, even premiered at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival.
“When researching possible scholarships to apply for, the SG:D Scholarship struck me as the definitive opportunity to focus on my development as a key player in the infocomm media industry,” explained Mr Lok. Expecting to compete with applicants in frontier fields like data analytics and cybersecurity, Mr Lok admits to being intimidated at first. “I ended up enjoying the final interview. It felt like a great sharing session and discussion with industry experts,” he said.
Armed with the SG:D Scholarship, Mr Lok is now set to conquer the international music scene as he begins his Master of Music in Music Theory and Composition: Screen Scoring at the New York University.
“It is my aim to forge meaningful connections overseas that can lead to international collaborations that will contribute to the local infocomm media industry,” shared Mr Lok. “Basing myself in Singapore, I hope to work on exciting projects from the region and beyond. People may say this island is too small, but there's so much talent around us.”
A symphony of experiences
Behind every great artist is an equally great music producer. Having collaborated with local music acts like Nathan Hartono, Linying and Benjamin Kheng, Mr Evan Low is a powerhouse in his own right. After all, he did graduate magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Music, majoring in Professional Music from the world-renowned Berklee College of Music.
These achievements were largely made possible by IMDA’s former Media Education Scholarship (MES)—now subsumed under the SG:D Scholarship—of which Mr Low is an alumnus.
“The scholarship is unique,” Mr Low said. “It has the prestige of a government scholarship as well as the flexibility of an industry scholarship.”
Because of this distinct combination, Mr Low feels like the scholarship has equipped him with the soft and technical skills that he is now well-known for.
Since graduating, Mr Low has arranged and produced music for the National Day Parade not once, nor twice—but three times. “You have no idea how nervous I was!” he exclaimed. He’s even engineered music for international legends like David Foster and composed for brands such as Adidas and eBay. Indeed, it’s clear that Mr Low’s star is only on the rise and surely, there’s more to come.
Playing it by ear
In a world shaped by COVID-19, both Mr Lok and Mr Low are now setting their sights on harnessing technology to create new digital experiences. While cultivating an audience connection is tricky without live shows, Mr Lok is surprisingly optimistic. “COVID-19 sparked an unprecedented interest in arts groups to take their shows online and spend a good effort in ensuring quality,” he said. “Given the long-time existence of online media channels, we should start realising that there are so many ways to deliver content.”
It’s a sentiment shared by Mr Low, who believes that the pandemic has provided new opportunities. For instance, livestreaming performances is now the norm. Despite the numerous challenges brought on by 2020, he is confident that the current batch of SG:D scholars have the tools to succeed.
“You have the passion and drive to do stellar work—that’s why you received the scholarship!” said Mr Low. “The next step is to translate these skillsets into something that’s undeniably and uniquely you, and bring it home to carve out a place in the industry that you’ll be proud of.”
Visit http://www.go.gov.sg/SGDScholarships to discover how you, too, can develop your talents and pursue an exciting career in infocomm media with the SG:D Scholarship!